John Weightman’s Municipal Buildings, Liverpool

At the beginning of February 2017 it was confirmed that a Singapore based hotel developer was purchasing Municipal Buildings, Liverpool City Council’s administrative headquarters since the 1860s.

The buildings were the last major works of Borough Surveyor John Weightman, who retired whilst they were being constructed. Weightman was born in London in 1798 and took up his post in Liverpool in 1848, having been working on the Grand Junction Railway, which connected the town with Birmingham. His appointment caused considerable debate as his salary of £1,000 a year was £300 more than the man he succeeded, Joseph Franklin.

Weightman’s first major project in the 1850s saw him design a new bridewell, fire station and magistrates court. All these buildings still stand today although they are no longer used for their original purpose. At the end of the decade he designed the buildings that we now know as Central Library and World Museum in William Brown Street. When what was then the free library opened in 1860 Weightman was one of the main guests, attending the event in the mayor’s chariot.

When work started at the beginning of the 1860s on Municipal Buildings, Liverpool Corporation’s staff numbers were increasing rapidly. The three storey building has a lead roof and clock tower with five bells, where sixteen sandstone figures represent the arts, science and industry of Liverpool. Weightman retired in 1865, leaving his successor Mr   E. R. Robson to oversee the completion and make some tweaks to the design of a building described by the Liverpool Mercury as ‘second only to St George’s Hall in the town in terms of architectural merit.’Municipal Buildings

The buildings were almost destroyed before they were completed. In 1867 two workmen were seriously injured during a gas explosion as they put the finishing touches to the offices of the Inspector of Public Nuisances. Then soon after they opened, teenager William Adams was caught scratching a wall with a knife in March 1868. He was charged with Wantonly Defacing a Public Building and fined ten shillings.

Although he had retired from his position, Weightman remained in local government as an alderman and he also served as a justice of the peace. He remained living at his home in 39 Hope Street where he passed away in August 1883, three months after his wife had died. Weightman was buried in Toxteth Park Cemetery. However his gravestone is today laid down for health and safety reasons.